In the last few years, the Tar Heel State has quietly become a leader in rolling out solar. The Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, notes that last year, North Carolina added 335 megawatts of capacity—the third-best tally of any state in the country. With a total of 592 megawatts of solar capacity installed, North Carolina ranks fourth among the 50 states. So far this year, according to SNL Energy, North Carolina ranks second in the number of solar farms under construction, behind only California.
As the industry has gained critical mass, it has also gained clout. The SEIA says $787 million was invested in solar plants in the state last year, and Urlaub says 570 green energy firms in the state employ 18,400 people. That helps explain why in 2013, when Rep. Mike Hager tried to repeal the state’s renewable portfolio standards law, it died in the committee he chaired.
Unfortunately, Mike Hager is only one of several threats to NC's Solar boom. The next big threat is coming from a group that was not elected by the people, and it may be just as devastating as repealing the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards:
The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.
The institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, "it may be too late to repair the utility business model." The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.
The "utility business model" is in no danger from renewable energy. Companies like Duke Energy have seen a vast increase in the amount of power generated from these sources, and their profits are healthier than ever. And for Conservatives to fight net-metering makes no sense at all. It is (by far) the most efficient means of handling Solar PV, as any excess power generated is used by somebody else on the grid. Then again, their claims of "efficiency" may just be another of the masks they wear to fool voters.
After the hearing, Hager said he may propose a study that would focus on how green subsidies impact energy costs, which he sees as a major impediment to economic growth and attracting business to the state. Last year Hager, a former Duke Energy engineer, pushed a bill to phase out the subsidies. But it got stuck in the committee he chairs, the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy, after encountering resistance from some of the state’s top Republicans.
The subsidies date back to 2007 and require electric utilities to generate 12.5 percent of the power they sell to homes and businesses from solar, wind and other renewables by 2021. The complex law includes sweeteners for industry and power companies, and lawmakers were reluctant to dismantle the policy piecemeal.
Because it works. The various Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) enacted by states with vision have brought down the cost of Solar PV immensely over the last 5-6 years, and it will continue to do so if the Republican leadership will keep these ideological misfits from breaking something they just don't like.
A recent statewide public opinion survey conducted by Fallon Research found that 75.7% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats, and 81.6% of Independents (82.6% overall) said state leaders and elected officials in North Carolina should seek more alternative or renewable energy sources in order to provide consumers and businesses with electricity.
That small percentage of people who oppose renewable energy, for whatever misguided reasons, need to understand: this poll isn't a product of confusion. Even those who question the validity of global warming are aware of the pollution burning coal produces, and even the small percentage of those who dismiss that or try to ignore it know it's unwise to be reliant on finite resources when infinite resources are available. If lawmakers try to reverse the progress we've made in this area, the voters will be (understandably) perplexed and upset. And this part was pleasantly surprising:
But Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County views the mandate as the government unfairly “picking winners and losers” in the marketplace. As chairman of the Public Utilities committee, Hager would like to freeze it at the current 3 percent level. “Under our scenario, you would never go to 12.5 percent,” he said.
That's kind of like big energy companies unfairly paying to play in NC elections, so they can bring (what's supposed to be) our government under their power. Why would entities like Duke Energy and REAP care what kind of energy they produce, if they're going to charge us for it anyway? Because traditional power plants cost billions to build, making a lot of influential people even richer:
The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country. The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power
Here's a copy of the model (cookie-cutter) Legislation, which is riddled with misleading information and outright lies, such as:
North Carolina is now home to 1,792 companies focused on renewable energy, and the state is the site for 1,829 renewable energy systems, according to a new report from the association.
The number of companies jumped from 1,100 last fall to nearly 1,800, based on data gathered by the group as of March. And these numbers could be low, according to the report’s authors.
For those lawmakers listening to JLF/Civitas' propaganda, this should be an eye opener. Ever since SB3 was passed, they've been chomping at the bit to get it repealed. Not because it's a bad program (it isn't), but because of their ties with the fossil fuel industry. Don't listen.
BlueNC is a labor of love. Views expressed by any particular community member are simply that: the views of that particular member. If you have questions or concerns about the content you see here, please contact us.